Preschoolers expelled. Kindergartners restrained. Classrooms in chaos, and teachers left unable to manage the unruly behavior of a loud and undeniable few. What’s up with all this?
“Parents will do anything for their children. Anything, Miss Manners has observed, short of actual childrearing.” (Check out her column here.)
Hmmm. Interesting idea.
Of course, Miss Manners (aka Judith Martin) is known for her unapologetic, steely opinions. In her column this week, she puts the responsibility for our children’s behavior squarely where it belongs:
“It's not that parents don't realize that their children need to learn manners, morals, and how to refrain from repulsing those in a position to give them degrees, riches and happiness. They simply do not see teaching these as being their job.”
Gone are the days when the kindergarten teacher at my school can concentrate fully on the traditional business of early childhood education. The new, frenzied focus on academics notwithstanding, Mrs. B spends a lot of her time doing what I call “civilizing” her darlings.
How and why we use a napkin.
Take turns talking.
Look up and speak when a grownup greets you.
“You suck!” is not polite, appropriate speech.
Says Miss Manners, “Parents were supposed to teach (their children) respect for authority and not to hit and scratch others. Lapses will occur, but they need to know and accept the principles. If not, serious, one-on-one remedial work needs to be done before any other socialization can be taught -- let alone the beginning academics that parents now want in the curriculum.”
The good news is that most children are hungry for all kinds of learning, and caring teachers can find fun, engaging ways to introduce the niceties of life. But when teachers get no help from parents, when the lessons learned at school are directly discounted at home, discourteous and rude behavior becomes the norm.
And what of the critics who say we teachers shouldn't be involved in matters of the home (which early manners training obviously is)? Throughout the edusphere, schools are accused of becoming a system of social workers, a kind of BIG BROTHER, intent on usurping the rights of parents.
We, all of us teachers and parents, have our roles and responsibilities. Wouldn’t it be great if we could count on each other for follow through?